Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 27, No. 11. 1964.
Schroder Poems Reviewed
Schroder Poems Reviewed
Mr. Schroder's efforts at being funny fall rather flat these days.
His verses, recently republished in The Street, first came out (all except two) in the twenties, mostly in newspapers.
They are trivia: a mock eulogy of the dahlia ("so innocent, frail, and retiring . . .") or a piece inspired by the edict "forbidding the issue of passports to Italian organ-grinders." Don't get me wrong: trivia can be classic, like Ogden Nash's: the trouble is that Schroder's attempts are nowhere near half as good.
Technically, the verse is weak. "Schroder contributes a brilliant display of metre and idiom," says Niel Wright in his Introduction, but he is guilty of gross overestimation. Actually, the rhythms are decidedly shaky, the rhymes doubtful, the idiom undistinguished. This is unfortunate, as a wellconstructed verse can be the framework for all manner of nonsense—witness Edward Lear. As it is. Schroder has very little to say and what's more doesn't say it very well—the unpardonable sin of literature.
What was doubtless the saving grace of the work in the twenties—its topicality—is lost on the modern reader. For better or worse, we are no longer interested in Mr. Poulteney Bigelow or the Dull-asHell School of Novelists, and the fact that people like this are what a lot of Mr. Schroder's poems are about doesn't help things.
To all of this there are two exceptions: "The Street" and "Fretwork" are serious pieces and deserve serious consideration. "The Street." claimed to be Schroder's best work, is a sonnet evoking the mood of an empty street as day turns through dusk to night. It is comparable to the first of T. S. Eliot's Preludes, but is a good deal less direct in its sensuous appeal—contrast, for example, Schroder's "and then the bold/Vagabond wind flings in its face his stray/Litter of insults" with Eliot's "And now a gusty shower wraps—The grimy scraps/Of withered leaves about your feet . ." What Schroder loses in vividness he fails to gain in subtlety—rather the result is vagueness. And his propensity for "poetic" language ("But behold—," "Noiseless converse") does not improve matters. Nevertheless, the poem has its points.
"Fretwork," a recent piece, consists of sixteen short lines (one or two words each) with an unobtrusive rhyme scheme and a single metaphorical theme stringing the bits together. The clipped character of the verse is remarkably effective, lending stress to the one important word in each line. The effect is cumulative.
These two are good. But "The Street" and "Fretwork" are hardly enough to establish Mr. Schroder as a New Zealand poet.